OurAwesomePlanet is partnering with Willy Arcilla (the marketing genius behind C2) and hopefully DOT to launch the "Only In The Philippines" campaign to market the Philippines. With permission from Willy, I'm sharing with you this article about the entire campaign. Read through it because it is very inspiring. We share the same views about the Philippines and how we should move forward on the tourism front. I would love to hear your comments about this article!

PATRIO-T-OURISM: “Only in the Philippines” By : Willy E. Arcilla

While the potential is boundless for tourism to become a growth engine for the country, it remains underoptimized. We salute the accomplishments of the Hon. Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano and his dedicated team for having attracted 3 Million foreign tourists in 2007, and we support their aspirations to generate US$5 Billion in 2008, but we also lament the fact we still trail our Asian neighbors. What can we all do to boost tourism?

The answer does not lie in foreigners, but in us. We will never achieve a quantum leap of growth in foreign tourists or dollar receipts if we do not first achieve a quantum leap in our patriotism and love for our countrymen. We cannot expect to attract foreign visitors to our country if we ourselves continue to leave in droves. Before we expect others to fall in love with the Philippines, we must first rekindle our love for our country. This is a must to the success of any human endeavor. No one can sell what he or she does not love.

Excessive Negativism

Secretary Ace Durano has been tireless in campaigning overseas, but sadly, his efforts and that of his team seem to be undermined – not by other countries, but ironically, by our own negative news reporting. All the negative journalism and pessimistic editorials, government scams and showbiz scandals, conflicts and controversies characteristic of media sensationalism have gotten so bad that not a few neighboring Asian countries now use our bad news as their own headlines. We may enjoy press freedom as a democracy, but at the cost of scaring away tourists and frightening foreign investors; at the risk of disillusioning our youth and accelerating the diaspora. The influence of media in forming lasting perceptions is so profound in today’s borderless world, driven by modern information and communications technology so we must be mindful of its consequences.

Perception and Reality

Today, the Philippines is already perceived across the globe as a country suffering from incurable graft and corruption, an endless communist insurgency and a worsening Muslim secessionist movement, unsolved kidnappings and criminality that has resulted in anarchy in the streets. This is mostly perception, not reality, or half-truths at best. The reality is there are 90 Million positive stories that unfold day-in and day-out in the country, written first-hand by positive and optimistic Filipinos who remain resilient and industrious. Sadly however, perception is oftentimes reality in publicity and media.

Press Freedom, Press Responsibility

The 2008 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Honorable Governor of Isabela Grace Padaca, herself a former radio personality, said, ““Media itself is Power. The power of the media should be in the hands of those who will not use it for their own selfish interests.” In fairness to the press, Rhonda Byrne, author of the best-selling book “The Secret”, confesses, “When I discovered The Secret (which is the Law of Attraction), I made a decision that I would not watch the news or read newspapers anymore, because it did not make me feel good. The news services and the newspapers are not in any way to blame for broadcasting bad news. As a global community, we are responsible for it. We buy more newspapers when a huge drama is the headline. The news channels’ ratings skyrocket when there is a national or international disaster. So the newspapers and news services give us more bad news because, as a society, that’s what we are saying we want. The media is effect, and we are cause. It is just the law of attraction in action!”

Bad News that is Good News

Our neighboring countries who have raced ahead of us in economic prosperity also report bad news but there is a major difference. In China for example, corruption scandals are reported with appropriate punitive measures already meted out, e.g., “Mayor of Shanghai Convicted of Corruption!” The message therefore to the local population including those in the government is: (1) Crime does not pay; while to the foreign community: (2) Come — it is safe for you to travel and tour, trade and invest in China. Locally however, it appears that the slightest hint of irregularities or anomalies becomes a source of media frenzy. Sometimes one cannot resist but suspect if members of the media are abusing press freedom just to drive TV ratings and newspaper readership that results in higher circulation numbers and advertising revenues. One evidence of this is that one-half of what one reads in newspapers is a ton of bad news and the other half is a ton of bad ads.

Patriotism Promotes Tourism

Patriotism means moderating our self-flaggelation in media, but it also requires much more. Patriotism also means loving our poor — uplifting them from the squalor that breeds drug addiction and criminality, gambling and alcoholism, which in turn translates into cleaner and safer neighborhoods, with no street urchins or roadside beggars, such as what Gawad Kalinga (Give Care) has been doing throughout the country. Patriotism means our richest taipans and ilustrados sharing their abundance to reduce income disparity and social injustice, enabling less fortunate Filipinos to improve their lot, promoting prosperity to benefit the common good. Patriotism calls for feudal landlords addressing the plight of the rural poor — farmers and fishermen, thus addressing the root cause of our 40-year communist insurgency and Muslim secessionist movement, and ensuring the safety of local and foreign tourists in the countryside. Patriotism means stamping out graft and corruption in government, which will promote the growth of commerce and industry, inviting local small and medium-scale entrepreneurs to invest, thus providing more employment opportunities, raising living standards, educational quality and purchasing power, and ultimately enhancing the investment climate to attract foreign investors. Patriotism means paying the right taxes which can be used to provide adequate basic social services, translating to cleaner streets, lighted neighborhoods and safer cities. Patriotism also means enjoining our 10 Million overseas Filipinos to act as our ambassadors of goodwill, capitalizing on the potency of Word-of-Mouth marketing. Patriotism means protecting our environment – preserving our forests, maintaining our waters, and cleaning our skies, to keep our land beautiful and clean for locals and tourists. Patriotism, in the context of tourism, means investing in the “HEARTS” of a successful tourism campaign – Hospitality and Hotels, Enjoyable Experiences, Airports and Airplanes, Roads, Rail & RORO, Tour Packages and clean Toilets, Safety and Security.

“Only in the Philippines”

It is a familiar line often quoted by locals and foreigners alike to capture the unbelievable sense of exasperation and frustration over a country that has been blessed with abundant beauty and a people imbued with nobility, yet shamelessly exploited by dynasties of “trapos” and greedy oligarchs. Yet in a paradoxical twist, it may also be the best line to use to drive local and foreign tourism, rekindle patriotism and unify a divided nation. It can be argued and it cannot be denied there is also so much natural beauty and goodness that can be found “Only in the Philippines” The same line arouses curiosity among new prospects (there are 1 billion tourists globally) who have never been to our shores. “What can be found ‘Only in the Philippines’”? It reinforces the experience of past visitors who can attest to the country’s uniqueness, while presenting new and more varied experiences.

It is simple and memorable, specific and unique. It is already a popular throwaway line among Filipinos and foreigners alike who are both delighted at our hospitality and aghast at our idiosyncrasies. It is a colloquial “tourist expression” that can be adapted in foreign languages for DOT campaigns. Importantly, it is campaignable even for domestic tourism which represents the normal course of tourism development when locals explore domestic destinations before venturing overseas. Sadly, Filipinos aspire to fly overseas before even appreciating the beauty of our own land and the goodness of our countrymen.

Synergy of Domestic and Foreign Tourism

“Only in the Philippines” lends itself to widespread adoption by all regions and provinces offering unique travel destinations and tourist attractions. The line creates synergy so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. “Only in Ilocos – Only in the Philippines” showcases Vigan, in Ilocos Sur, Pagudpud Beach and Fort Ilocandia in Laoag. The Banaue Rice Terraces, Mt. Pulag and La Trinidad Valley beckon with “Only in Benguet – Only in the Philippines”. In promoting the majestic Mayon Volcano, the pristine Caramoan Islands, and Pacific Ocean surfing in Daet’s Bagasbas Beach, we promote “Only in Bicol – Only in the Philippines”. “Only in Panay” can you experience the “Ati-Atihan” and indulge on the paradise island of Boracay. “Only in Palawan” do you find the world-renowned Tubbataha Reef and the world’s longest Subterranean River. The international and local campaigns can become seamlessly integrated as one, and will mutually reinforce each other to attract both foreign and domestic tourists.

Unity in Diversity

All local government units can now leverage on the national and international tourism campaigns in promoting their respective local destinations. In the process, we recognize and celebrate the uniqueness of each region, but within the context of one country. While Bicolanos will feel affirmation from “Only in Bicol”, they themselves will acknowledge the attraction of traveling to see and experience what is “Only in Ilocos”. “Only in the Philippines” also dovetails neatly into the “One Town-One Product” (OTOP) program created by the Office of the President to promote entrepreneurship, identifying products which small towns can produce at a comparative advantage vs. other neighboring towns. “Christmas Lanterns — Only in Pampanga”. “Strawberries – Only in Benguet” and so on.

Sola en las Filipinas!

The real excitement is in its global application across multiple languages beyond English-speaking nations like the US and Canada, the UK and Australia/New Zealand. In Mandarin Chinese, the line translates neatly to “Jin Zai Fei Lu Bin”, while in Cantonese, it is “Gan Zoi Fei Lud Ban”. In Japanese, it’s “Filipin Dah-Keh”, and in Korean, “Filipin Esoman”. The growing number of Russian tourists might be lured with, “Tolko V Filipine”. In Spain, our slogan is aptly “Sola en las Filipinas”, which can also be used for the entire Latin America. The French can say, “Seulement dans le Philippines”; the Germans affirm, “Nur in der Philippinen” and the Italians, “Soltanto nelle Filipine”.

Where else can you find all these and more?

Where else can you find a land as beautiful as its people, and a people as warm as its climate? Where else can you find a nation as rich as its history, and a culture as colorful as her transport “(vintas and jeepneys)? Where else can you find a workforce as talented as her artists, and an economy as vibrant as her freedoms? Where else can you find dining as delightful as her shopping, and golf fairways as tranquil as her day spas? Where else can you find fruits as delicious as her hillsides (Bohol Chocolate Hills), and a nightlife as breathtaking as her sunset? Finally, where else can you find a people with pride in her past, a passion for her present, and faith in her future? All these and more . . . “ONLY IN THE PHILIPPINES”.

(The author is President of Business Mentors, Inc., a newly-formed Management Consultancy Firm and Regional Director of ZMG Signium Ward Howell, Inc. a leading provider of human capital solutions. Comments are welcome